The Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) is back, this year with numerous can’t-miss films from all corners of the globe. The festival screenings kick off February 5, 2015, and continue through February 21 at various theaters around Portland. Over the next several weeks, check back here for in-depth reviews of those screenings — but in the meantime, study up; we’ve culled together a list of the most tantalizing offerings you’ll want to check out.


Schedules are subject to change, so please consult the official festival website before you head out!

Jauja, directed by Lisandro Alonso

PIFF (Portland International Film Festival 2015) Top Film Picks

Australian & Pacific Islander Films

Charlie’s Country (Australia) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Rolf de Heer

An out of sorts and aging aboriginal named Charlie paints tree barks and fishes most days, but feels increasingly estranged from the Australia of his youth. The last straw comes when police confiscate Charlie’s spear as a weapon, prompting him to leave his community and head out indeterminately into “the bush.” But the new Australia isn’t done with him yet. Charlie’s Country is a heartbreaking portrayal of a changing world with little respect for marginalized peoples. Best Actor (David Gulpilil), Cannes Film Festival. Aaron Bruner

Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 – 6:30PM – Cinema 21
Monday, Feb. 16, 2015 – 8:30PM – Fox Tower

 

East Asian & Southeast Asian Films

Black Coal, Thin Ice – 白日焰火 (China)
Directed by Diao Yinan

Stylish and harkening to classic film noir, the film follows former policeman Zhang who has retired to a small mining town in far-away northern China. But when a series of copycat murders occur that are eerily similar to a prior case, Zhang is pulled back into a gripping plot he had longed to forget. Golden Bear Award, Berlin Film Festival (2014). Aaron Bruner
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Friday, Feb. 13, 2015 – 8:45PM – Moreland Theater
Monday, Feb. 16, 2015 – 3:30PM – Fox Tower

 

A Girl at My Door – 도희야 (South Korea) * TOP PICK *
Directed by July Jung

Following a scandal, female police officer Young-nam is transferred to a frustrating job as station chief in a provincial coastal town, where she encounters frustrating pushback from the locals and from her own male colleagues. Her sanity and safety are pushed further when she takes in a young girl who shows up at her door beaten by her violent and well-connected stepfather. Aaron Bruner
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Monday, Feb. 16, 2015 – 6:00PM – Whitsell Auditorium
Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015 – 8:30PM – Roseway Theater

 

R100 (Japan)
Directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto

One man gains membership into a mysterious and secret club, which teeters on the brink of reality. Dreamy black and white sequences and cinematic music are the backdrop for this highly stylized and unconventionally bizarre comedy that can only come from the hands of the Japanese. Vivian Hua

Friday, Feb. 13, 2015 – 10:30PM – Hollywood Theatre

 

 

Eastern European & Western European Films

10,000km (Spain) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Carlos Marques-Marcet

An intimate portrait of a young, impassioned couple who attempt to maintain their burgeoning relationship over long distance (Los-Angeles to Spain), the film speaks to the difficulty of modern relationships in an international world, as well as to the strange juxtaposition of closeness and distance that contemporary technology and social media communiques engender. Aaron Bruner

Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015 – 1:00PM – Fox Tower
Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015 – 6:00PM – Cinema 21

 

Corn Island – სიმინდის კუნძული – Simindis Kundzuli (Georgia)
Directed by George Ovashvili

Called “an unparalleled big screen experience” and an “astonishing feat of cinema” by Variety magazine, Corn Island takes place along the Inguri River, which forms a border between the Republic of Abkhazia and Georgia, from which Abkhazia has seceded. A young Akhbazi girl and her grandfather inhabit and grow corn on one of the many shifting islands of the Inguri, and one day discover among the stalks a wounded Georgian soldier, with tensions still taut between the two countries.
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Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015 – 9:00pm – Fox Tower
Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 – 12:30pm – Fox Tower

 

The Fool – Durak (Russia)
Directed by Jurij Bykov

Some film trailers give away the entire film in minutes; others hone in on one scene from a film and use it as an entryway into the tone and spirit of a film. With the trailer for The Fool, one follows a couple as they argue with one another about the importance of the greater moral good versus the selfish personal good, and immediately one senses the tension and philosophical debates The Fool hopes to address. If the film is even a fraction as compelling as the seven minutes of the trailer, it will be a must-see. Vivian Hua
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Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015 – 9:30pm – Roseway Theatre
Friday, Feb. 13, 2015 – 5:45pm – Fox Tower
Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015 – 8:30pm – Cinema 21

 

Horse Money (Portugal)
Directed by Pedro Costa

Ventura, an aging immigrant from Cape Verde off the West-African coast, is experiencing vivid and fragmented memories of an earlier life. Now resigned to a hospital room, apparently penniless and mentally broken down, these flashbacks—to the brilliance and color of youth during the 1970s, to his time as a soldier, to Portugal on the eve of revolution—punctuate a sanitized but brutal present as Ventura lives out what may be his last days. Aaron Bruner

Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015 – 8:30PM – Fox Tower
Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015 – 6:00PM – Fox Tower

 

On the Way to School – Sur le chemin de l’ecole (France) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Pascal Plisson

Four children from different countries (Kenya, Patagonia, Morocco, and Bay of Bengal) take up significant journeys to school each day that speak wonderously about the enduring value of education throughout the world. The children travel variously by foot through the perilous and untamed African savannah; on horseback across Patagonia’s lush plains; traversing the high mountain passes of Morocco, and even by wheelchair over sand dunes in the Bay of Bengal. Aaron Bruner

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Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015 – 4:00PM – Whitsell Auditorium
Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 – 4:00PM – World Trade Center Theater

 

The Tribe – Плем’я – Plemya (Ukraine) * TOP PICK *
Directed by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy

There are no subtitles or voice-overs in The Tribe; the only language used in the film is sign-language, and as they so bluntly remark in the trailer, “YOU DON’T NEED TRANSLATION,” as the film follows a group of deaf-mute gangsters. A huge success at Cannes. Vivian Hua

Friday, Feb. 6, 2015 – 8:45pm – Cinema 21
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 – 8:30pm – Moreland Theatre

 

White God (Hungary)
Directed by Kornel Mundruczo
Abandoned dog Hagen attempts to seek out his owners once more, but winds up in a kennel where the masters train dogs to fight one another. Hagen, along with the other dogs, leads a breakout attempt against the totalitarian human regime. A most unusual and courageous film with political metaphor at its heart and man’s best friend leading the charge. Un Certain Regard winner, Cannes Film Festival.
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Friday, Feb. 13, 2015 – 5:45PM – Cinema 21

 

 

Middle Eastern Films

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Israel)

Directed by Shlomi and Ronit Elkabetz
Domestic disputes play out in this stark and minimal courtroom drama which follows the harrowing and multi-year divorce trial of Viviane Amsalem. Vivian Hua

Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 – 5:45pm – Whitsell Auditorium
Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015 – 5:30pm – Cinema 21

 

 

North American Films

I Am Big Bird: The Carroll Spinney Story (United States)
Directed by Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker
A trip down nostalgia lane for anyone who grew up on Sesame Street. A crowd-funded treat! Vivian Hua
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Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 – 1:00pm – World Trade Center Theater
Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015 – 1:30pm – Moreland Theater

 

The Iron Ministry (United States) * TOP PICK *
Directed by J.P. Sniadecki

This documentary takes place on a number of train journeys across the great expanse of China; those on the train packed into the quivering, metallic monster with all sorts of luggage and goods for all kinds of reasons. Interviews with the passengers provide a glimpse into what dreams drive each of them, and in turn, each of us, while the metal compartments serve simultaneously as a metaphor and a juxtaposition for their humble and great aspirations.

Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 – 9:00PM – World Trade Center Theater
Monday, Feb. 16, 2015 – 6:00PM – Fox Tower

 

 

Northern European Films

The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Sweden)
Directed by Felix Herngren

Elderly explosives expert Jonas Jonasson, reminiscent of his adventurous youth, breaks out of his nursing home to go on an epic and fantastical caper. A farcical black comedy, the 100-Year Old Man follows in a long line of films with random humor, quirky characters, and sometimes over-the-top but obviously fake violence to pick up belly laughs all along the way. Check it out if you liked films such as Shaun of the Dead (2004), Zombieland (2009), or The Bothersome Man (2006). Aaron Bruner

Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015 – 9:00PM – Moreland Theater
Monday, Feb. 9, 2015 – 8:30PM – Whitsell Auditorium

 

Concrete Night (Finland)
Directed by Pirjo Honkasalo

A minimalist, even spartan, tale of innocence out of place and on the brink of being extinguished. Filmed in black and white and set in an unforgiving Helsinki ghetto, we find 14-year-old Simo trapped with a non-present mother and an elder brother, criminal Ilkka, who has only 24 hours left before he must go to prison. Ilkka leads young Simo on a ill-advised night of drinking and exposes him to a dangerous underground world and dangerous ideas. Aaron Bruner
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Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015 – 8:45PM – Moreland Theater
Sunday, Feb. 15, 2015 – 6:00PM – Whitsell Auditorium

 

Underdog – Svenskjävel (Sweden)
Directed by Ronnie Sandahl

This black comedy romance follows a Swede who emigrates to Oslo in search of work, exploring themes of dominance and privilege, desire and forbidden fruits that uncover a dynamic where Swedes have become subservient to Norwegians. Vivian Hua
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Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015 – 4:00pm – Fox Tower
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 – 8:30pm – Cinema 21

 

 

South American Films

I’m Still Here – Kachkaniraqmi
Directed by Javier Corcuera
Combining majestic shots of Peru’s landscapes with personal conversations with musicians from Lima, Ayacucho, and the Amazon, I’m Still gives voice to what it means to be Peruvian by delving into the culture, social and economic problems, and pure natural beauty of the country. Documentary Prize, Lima Film Festival (2013). Aaron Bruner
“¡Kachkaniraqmi!” is a greeting among old friends in Ayacucho Quechua (a Peruvian dialect), is roughly translatable as “I am still here!” It’s an expression of inner stability, perhaps a bit of machismo, and perseverance against the odds through a long and winding life.” Vivian Hua

Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015 – 6:30PM – Whitsell Auditorium
Friday, Feb. 20, 2015 – 9:30PM – Fox Tower

 

Jauja * TOP PICK *
Directed by Lisandro Alonso
Viggo Mortensen’s first-ever Danish-speaking role centers around Jauja, the mythological Incan land where all of man’s material desires would be satisfied. This film dramatically explores the problems that come with European imperialism and one’s “right” to attain. “A delicate and enigmatic reflection on the legacy of European imperialism… its reception in Cannes was ecstatic,” says the Hollywood Reporter.Vivian Hua

Saturday, Feb. 12, 2015 – 5:30pm – Roseway Theater
Monday, Feb. 16, 2015 – 8:30pm – Cinema 21

 

Mr. Kaplan (Uraguay)
Directed by Álvaro Brechner
Full of in-head narrations, this highly stylized comedy follows Mr. Kaplan through a mystery quest to hunt down a former Nazi. Focus on color and levity propel forward this rare film from Uraguay. Vivian Hua
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Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015 – 5:00pm – Roseway Theater
Tuesday, Feb 10, 2015 – 5:45pm – Fox Tower

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